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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Behind Congress miss in Meghalaya, bitter past with regional parties

The Congress put all its might in Meghalaya pre- and post-elections, and rushed its bigwigs — Ahmed Patel, Kamal Nath, C P Joshi and Mukul Wasnik — to Shillong and staked claim Saturday midnight.

Written by Manoj C G | Shillong |
Updated: March 5, 2018 5:17:59 am
Meghalaya elections, Meghalaya results, Congress coalition, Meghalaya govt, Conrad Sangma, Mukul Sangma, Indian Express “The BJP has only two MLAs. How will they form the government?” Mukul Sangma said.

When Mukul Sangma walked into the Crinoline Views bungalow of UDP chief Donkupar Roy here a little after 2 pm with a proposal to share chief ministership for two and a half years each in Meghalaya, he was perhaps unaware of a small bit of news — the UDP had already decided to back a non-Congress government. And Mukul was in for another surprise. As soon as he entered Roy’s residence, in rolled BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma’s vehicle. And in his car was National People’s Party chief Conrad Sangma. So when Mukul was unveiling the Congress proposal to Roy, Sarma and Conrad were waiting in the adjacent room.

Roy rejected Mukul’s proposal of rotating chief ministership and, minutes after he left, Sarma came out beaming and announced the support of 29 MLAs and the decision to meet the Governor at 5 pm with the letter of support. He said more support was on the way. In the next two hours, the BJP managed the support of the four-member PDF and independent MLA from Baghmara Samuel M Sangma, taking the tally to 34.

The Congress put all its might in Meghalaya pre- and post-elections, and rushed its bigwigs — Ahmed Patel, Kamal Nath, C P Joshi and Mukul Wasnik — to Shillong and staked claim Saturday midnight. However, it could not cobble up a coalition because of a bitter past with some regional parties, like six-member UDP, and because these parties are keen to be on the right side of the BJP, which is in power at the centre.

Patel and the other leaders met all newly elected Congress MLAs at Mukul’s residence on Sunday. Soon after, Mukul went to Raj Bhawan, submitted his resignation, and drove to Roy’s residence. The Congress hoped the UDP — a Khasi and Jaintia hills-based party — would insist on a person from Khasi hills as CM. And a Khasi MLA of its choice. That hope was dashed when Roy said the UDP wants Conrad as CM. Conrad is from the Garo hills.

The Congress and UDP shared power between 2008 and 2013, but had a bitter parting before the 2013 election. Roy was CM for a brief period during those five years, but had to make way for Congress’s D D Lapang followed by Mukul in 2010. The PDF was floated by former Congress leader P N Syiem, who could never support the Congress. There was clearly a trust deficit for the Congress.

So why did UDP prefer the BJP to the Congress? “Unless I have sufficient number of MLAs, I will never go for the post of CM,” Roy said, making it clear that he hadn’t forgotten 2009, when he had to quit as CM. He said the NPP-led government would last, unlike in the past. So what prevented him from working with the Congress, the single largest party? “I am concerned more about the stability of the government,” he said.

The Congress, meanwhile, cried foul, saying it had met the Governor first staking claim. “The BJP has only two MLAs. How will they form the government? They want to fire from the shoulders of other parties. That is what BJP has been always doing. It is time for all the parties to see… I think they need to be very cautious,” Mukul said.

Conrad said that submitting a letter of 21 MLAs was not enough as the Governor would obviously weigh the stability factor. Sarma, convenor of the BJP-helmed NEDA and BJP’s Northeast in charge, said it was a proud moment for the BJP and NDA as the alliance has now seven of the eight Northeastern states under its belt.

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